Halfway through his first term, Mark Gonzalez, the District Attorney of Nueces County, Texas, is still trying to decide what his stance is on the death penalty, according to the Texas Observer.
Gonzalez, called a “progressive prosecutor” by many, due to his progressive stance on many issues, said he’s conflicted about the death penalty and wants to let the people of Nueces County decide whether capital punishment should stand in the county. He expected to receive a “test case” with a jury, to help him decide what the policy should be.
“I can’t say I’m pro-anything, but I am very pro-giving this and entrusting this to the jury to make the decision,” he told the Observer.
Gonzales and the jury must decide how to handle the case of Arturo Garza. Garza has reportedly admitted to beating his seven-months-pregnant girlfriend Susanna Eguia to death in 2015. Earlier he was charged with two counts of murder—one charge for Susanna and one charge for the unborn infant.
But death penalty attorneys say Gonzalez’s wait- and-see approach avoids the responsibility of his office: determining and advocating for a punishment he thinks is appropriate.
The “progressive prosecutor” movement includes District Attorneys who advocate abandoning the use of the death penalty, decriminalizing marijuana possession, sending low-level offenders
to rehabilitative courses instead of jail, seeking shorter sentences, and “vowing to aggressively prosecute police-involved shootings.”
Some District Attorneys who are considered progressive still pursue death sentences despite the trend away from capital punishment, its high monetary costs, ineffectiveness in deterring crime and its disproportionate use against people of color.
District Attorney Kim Ogg of Harris County, who has pushed for marijuana decriminalization and bail reform, said she pursues the death penalty only under extreme cases.
Ogg consults with a capital review committee of senior prosecutors to help her vet these cases.
Though Gonzalez also consults with his prosecutors about capital cases, during an interview with a reporter, he didn’t cite a criteria or process for when to pursue a death sentence. “We know when it may be an option that we consider and we definitely know when it’s not,” he said.
According to the Observer, Garza’s is one of six cases in which the death penalty continued to be a possibility for juries in Gonzalez’s first two years Garza’s appointed law- yer, Richard Rogers, said that for months his client has been willing to plead to life-without-parole in order to avoid a trial and possible death sentence. Rogers feels strongly that the state should accept Garza’s plea offer. “Because bottom line: Either way the guy is going to die in prison.”